“Listen,” said Paul Klassen. “Not for agreement but to understand each other.” Klassen is a retired USMB pastor, and he made this appeal during an open-mic time at the Southern District Conference convention in July.
I write this editorial in the wake of the Aug. 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where we witnessed ugly racial hatred from white nationalists and neo-Nazis that resulted in violence that left three people dead and 35 injured.
I am going to assume that we U.S. Mennonite Brethren agree that such attitudes and actions are morally wrong. USMB national director Don Morris spoke for all of us when he said, “It is difficult to understand how there can still be those who hold onto blatant white supremacist ideologies.”
While Christians need to name racism as sin and to confess and repent of our own sin, it is time for us white Mennonite Brethren to listen closely and carefully to the people of color around us who endure both the blatant and the mundane expressions of white supremacy each and every day.
For those of us living in central Oklahoma and central Kansas as well as the Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif., areas, we have the opportunity in October and December to listen to a USMB leader who may offer a perspective on this issue that few of us share.
Terry Hunt, pastor of The Life Center in Lenoir, N.C., is the key resource person for a one-day LEAD One event that will be offered in these four locations as well as in Central District Conference communities in early 2018.
Hunt brings an interesting combination of “identities” to our conversation about racism. He is African American. He is a pastor. He is a police chaplain who spends time ministering to police officers, a group of professionals that are often involved in the events that fuel the racial divide in our communities.
Convinced that not enough people were speaking up about the racial divide in the country, last spring Hunt began taking advantage of opportunities to speak to the issue. In sharing his perspective, Hunt experienced the difficulty we have in really listening; he found himself ostracized to some degree by all three groups.
I encourage Mennonite Brethren pastors, church councils and lay leaders to seize the opportunity to participate in this LEAD One event when it comes to your areas. As followers of the Prince of Shalom, let’s be the people who listen for understanding as a first step toward the defeat of the sin of racism.